Work is at long last starting to convert Chester’s historic Bull and Stirrup into a Wetherspoon’s hotel and bar.
The national chain bought the pub exactly two years ago with the promise of a £2.3m investment but it has remained boarded up ever since.
Now scaffolding is going up at the Upper Northgate Street premises as the redevelopment finally gets under way.
Planning and listed building consent has already been obtained, allowing a single storey rear extension and internal alterations to provide 10 refurbished hotel bedrooms with en-suite facilities and new WC facilities to upper floors.
Wetherspoon’s founder and chairman Tim Martin predicted work would start this autumn when he spoke to The Chronicle on a recent visit to the company’s Square Bottle pub in Foregate Street .
Tim first of all explained the background as to why his company had decided to invest in The Bull and Stirrup on the other side of the city centre but also sell its Forest House outlet in Love Street to the company behind the Brewhouse and Kitchen brand.
“What the hell am I doing?’ he asked rhetorically with a smile. “We made a strategic error a dozen years ago, but mostly in the aftermath of the credit crunch when a lot of pubs came up for sale and we opened – if we had a very good pub like The Square Bottle – we opened a second pub too close to the first.
“So we think we can definitely have two pubs in Chester. But The Bull is a much better location for pub number two than right next door to pub number one.”
It has been two years since contracts were exchanged on The Bull and Stirrup and despite planning and licensing consents all being in place, the magnificent building has remained empty.
Mr Martin continued: “It’s a bit of commonsense really. It’s just the pace of developments, slotting into the development programmes, so we are going to develop The Bull. The hotels are good actually. They’re doing very well. We’ve got about 40 now and they’re doing very well. Quite a lot of what we’ve opened in the last while has been hotels.
“It will happen. I’d hope to go on site in the autumn but I haven’t checked. I know people are excited about it and it’s also not very good to have it closed so we need to push it along.”